As longtime readers know I've spent quite a bit of time discussing the moral implications of participating and watching professional football. I'll be spending the next few months educating myself on the subject. 

I mention this because I'd like to lean on you guys for some preliminary help. I'm looking to explore the tradition, history and function of ritualized sporting violence in societies. I want to start with a really basic question: Why do violent sports exist? I define "sport" broadly. I would include jousting for instance, or perhaps hunting, in some instances. Specifically, I am interested in the dynamics of the crowd. What are we experiencing, from a cultural perspective?

As is so often the case, I am in foreign terrain. Among the knowing, what are classic texts in this area? Any help would be appreciated. As is the case with other threads like this, I'd ask people who do not know to not comment. If all you have is a joke, save it for tomorrow's open thread. More questions that might complicate this project are welcome and appreciated.